Lincoln -- Nebraska opened its 2003 campaign in impressive fashion, using an inspired defensive effort to post a 17-7 victory over 24th-ranked Oklahoma State in the season and Big 12 opener for both teams. The victory marked the 18th straight year Nebraska has opened the season with a win, and the first time since 1994 the Huskers had opened a season with a win against a ranked opponent. The victory over the Cowboys catapulted Nebraska back into the national rankings for the first time since last September and end NU's longest poll drought since 1969. Nebraska is ranked 23rd in this week's Associated Press poll and is 24th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll.
The Huskers will look to make it two straight victories to open the season this Saturday when they play host to Utah State. The Aggies come to Lincoln after opening the season with a 40-20 setback against intra-state rival Utah last Thursday evening in Salt Lake City. Saturday's game is set for an 11:40 a.m. kickoff and will be broadcast to a national audience on Fox Sports Net.
This marks the second straight season Utah State has traveled to Lincoln and the eighth meeting all-time between the two schools. Last season, Nebraska defeated the Aggies 44-13 at Memorial Stadium to improve to 7-0 in the series. Utah State went on to finish its 2002 campaign with a 4-7 record. This weekend's activities also include the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame induction. Thirteen new members will be enshrined into the hall at a special reception on Friday night, and the new inductees will be honored before kickoff on Saturday.
Blackshirts Smother Oklahoma State Offense
Nebraska welcomed back 800 former letterwinners for the Husker Nation Celebration and used a traditional Husker defensive performance and a power running attack to upend No. 24 Oklahoma State, 17-7 on Saturday in Lincoln. The Blackshirt defense limited a high-powered OSU offense to just 183 total yards and forced five Cowboy turnovers, including four after halftime.
On the offensive side, Nebraska controlled the clock and kept the defense fresh throughout the day. The Huskers held the ball for 36:48 in the contest and rushed for 268 yards, while putting up 346 yards of total offense. Running back Josh Davis and quarterback Jammal Lord each topped 90 yards on the ground to pace the Husker offense.
Nebraska got off to a quick start courtesy of its running attack. Davis brought the opening kickoff back 32 yards, giving the Huskers excellent field position on their first drive. Nebraska responded by moving 54 yards in 11 plays all on the ground to set up a 28-yard Sandro DeAngelis field goal and a 3-0 Husker lead.
Oklahoma State quickly showed its offensive ability on its initial possession. OSU took the ball near midfield after a long kickoff return and marched 52 yards in nine plays capped by a four-yard TD pass from Josh Fields to Rashaun Woods. Fields and Woods hooked up twice for 32 yards on the opening drive, but would make connections just three more times for 15 yards on the afternoon.
Neither offense was able to produce points the remainder of the first half. Nebraska squandered a pair of trips inside the Cowboy red zone with failed field goal attempts, the second of which was blocked. On the other side, Oklahoma State also saw its lone scoring threat end with a blocked field goal attempt.
Nebraska quickly turned to its defense to set the tone in the second half. Free safety Josh Bullocks intercepted a Fields' pass on OSU's first possession, but Nebraska was unable to convert. However, after a punt pinned the Cowboys deep in their own territory, running back Tatum Bell fumbled and NU linebacker Barrett Ruud scooped up the ball and sprinted 15 yards for a score and a 10-7 Nebraska lead. Two possessions later, Fields fumbled deep in OSU's territory and nose tackle Ryon Bingham recovered. Nebraska covered the 13 yards in three plays capped by a two-yard scoring plunge by Judd Davies to give the Huskers a 17-7 advantage. Nebraska's running game controlled the clock in the fourth quarter, while the Blackshirts continued to stifle the Cowboy offense.
Recapping Game One...NU 17, Oklahoma State 7
Nebraska junior linebacker Barrett Ruud scored his first career touchdown on a 15-yard fumble return in the third quarter. The touchdown was Nebraska's first defensive score since Fabian Washington returned an interception 29 yards for a TD in last year's opener with Arizona State. It was NU's first fumble return for a touchdown since Jon Clanton returned a Troy State fumble 20 yards to the end zone on Sept. 1, 2001. He also made seven tackles and was Nebraska's nominee for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.
Cornerback Fabian Washington had a career-high 11 tackles and keyed a Husker secondary that limited All-America receiver Rashaun Woods to five catches for 47 yards.
Free safety Josh Bullocks intercepted two passes, the first time a Husker had nabbed a pair of opponent passes since Fabian Washington had two interceptions at Iowa State last season. NU's three interceptions matched last season's high against Utah State.
Nebraska's defense forced five turnovers against Oklahoma State, after forcing no more than three in a game last season. The last time a Husker opponent had five turnovers in a game was on Nov. 13, 1999 when Kansas State committed five turnovers in Lincoln.
Senior I-back Josh Davis rushed for a career-high 95 yards on 20 carries in his first start at I-back. He accounted for 169 all-purpose yards including 12 receiving yards, 30 yards on three punt returns and a 32-yard kickoff return.
Quarterback Jammal Lord moved into the top 10 on Nebraska's career total offense list by accounting for 168 yards in the contest. Lord rushed for 90 yards and passed for 78. He now has 3,336 yards of total offense to rank 10th on NU's career charts. He needs just 23 yards to move into the top 25 on Nebraska's career rushing list.
Senior linebacker Demorrio Williams made nine tackles, including a tackle for loss and broke up a Cowboy pass.
The 183 yards of total offense allowed by Nebraska was the fewest it has allowed since Notre Dame gained just 162 yards in a 27-10 Husker victory on Sept. 8, 2001. The last time NU allowed fewer yards in an opener was 169 against Iowa in 1999.
Saturday's victory was Frank Solich's 50th victory as Nebraska's head coach. He reached the milestone in 66 games on the Husker sideline, the same amount it took Tom Osborne to reach 50 victories (50-14-2).
Nebraska had seven players make their first career starts, including receivers Ross Pilkington and Jack O'Holleran, tight end Matt Herian, center Josh Sewell, offensive guard Jake Andersen, defensive end Benard Thomas and defensive tackle Le Kevin Smith.
True freshmen Andy Birkel (receiver), Brandon Teamer (defensive tackle) and Lane Kelly (long snapper) made their Husker debuts in the victory.
The victory was Nebraska's 18th straight win in a season opener since a 17-13 loss to Florida State to open the 1985 season. NU's 18 straight season-opening victories is the longest streak in the nation. Nebraska has now won its conference home opener in 26 straight seasons and has posted a victory in 28 of its last 29 league openers.
Nebraska's win over 24th-ranked Oklahoma State marked the first time an unranked Husker team had defeated a nationally ranked opponent since a 20-7 Nebraska victory over No. 18 Colorado on Nov. 1, 1969.
The Huskers improved to 36-3-1 all-time against Oklahoma State, including a 20-1 mark at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska has won each of the last 20 meetings with the Cowboys in Lincoln.
Nebraska ended a three-game overall losing streak with the victory and stopped a six-game slide against AP ranked opponents. The Huskers' previous victory against a ranked opponent came in a 20-10 victory over No. 2 Oklahoma on Oct. 27, 2001.
Huskers Continue Success in Season Openers
Nebraska's 17-7 victory over Oklahoma State continued its run of season-opening success. The victory was Nebraska's nation-leading 18th straight win in a season opener since a 17-13 loss to Florida State in Lincoln in 1985. The Huskers have won each of those 18 contests by at least 10 points. Nebraska is now 83-26-5 all-time in season openers.
Husker Head Coach Frank Solich improved to a perfect 6-0 in season openers. In the last 31 years, the Huskers are 26-4-1 in season openers, 21-2 at home, losing only to FSU in 1985 and Washington State in 1977 (19-10). In fact, the Huskers have won 39 of 42 season openers since Bob Devaney took over the Husker program in 1962.
In all-time home openers, NU is 92-17-5 including 64-14-3 at Memorial Stadium. The Huskers are 29-2 in home openers over the last 31 years.
Huskers Hope to Continue Run of Fast Starts
A victory over Utah State on Saturday would give Nebraska a 2-0 start to a season for the seventh consecutive year, including each of Frank Solich's six seasons as head coach. In fact, Nebraska has won its first three games in each of Solich's first five years on the NU sideline. Nebraska has opened 16 of its past 17 seasons with 2-0 records, with the only blemish a 1-1 mark in 1996, when NU lost its second game at Arizona State, but finished 11-2.
Nebraska Knocks Off Ranked Opponent in Opener
Nebraska found success in its first season-opening encounter against a ranked opponent in nine seasons. The Huskers' victory over No. 24 Oklahoma State marked the first time Nebraska had faced a nationally ranked foe in game one since a 31-0 whitewash of West Virginia in the 1994 Kickoff Classic. Saturday's victory over Oklahoma State gave Nebraska a 7-4 all-time record in season openers against ranked opponents, including a 3-3 mark at Memorial Stadium. NU improved to 2-2 in openers against ranked opponents when it has entered the game unranked.
2003-Nebraska 17, #24 Oklahoma State 7, Lincoln
1994-#4 Nebraska 31, #24 West Virginia 0, Kickoff Classic, East Rutherford, N.J.
1988-#2 Nebraska 23, #10 Texas A&M 14, Kickoff Classic, East Rutherford, N.J.
1986-#8 Nebraska 34, #11 Florida State 17, Lincoln
1985-#17 Florida State 17, #10 Nebraska 13, Lincoln
1983-#1 Nebraska 44, #4 Penn State 6, Kickoff Classic, East Rutherford, N.J.
1978-#1 Alabama 20, #10 Nebraska 3, Birmingham, Ala.
1973-#4 Nebraska 40, #10 UCLA 13, Lincoln
1969-#5 USC 31, Nebraska 21, Lincoln
1960-Nebraska 14, #4 Texas 13, Austin, Texas
1959-#17 Texas 20, Nebraska 0, Lincoln
Scanning the Polls
Nebraska found itself in an unfamiliar preseason position entering the 2003 season-unranked in both major polls. The Huskers were just outside of the top 25 in both polls, marking the first time since 1969 that Nebraska entered a season unranked in the Associated Press poll. The Huskers took care of that unusual situation in just one week. Nebraska's 17-7 victory over Oklahoma State moved the Huskers into this week's national polls. The Huskers are ranked 23rd in this week's Associated Press poll and are 24th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
Nebraska joins four other Big 12 teams in the national rankings, including Oklahoma (1 AP/1 Coaches), Texas (6/4), Kansas State (7/6) and Colorado (24/22). Meanwhile, four other conference teams received votes in the polls, including Missouri, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Nebraska non-conference opponent Penn State is ranked 25th in this week's coaches poll and is receiving votes in the Associated Press poll.
The Huskers move back into the national polls comes after an absence from the last 12 Associated Press weekly polls. Nebraska has now been ranked in 523 of 538 AP polls since 1969 (all but one week in 1977, three weeks in 1981, the final 11 weeks of 2002 and this year's preseason poll).
Against AP Ranked Teams
With last week's victory, Nebraska improved to 90-96-3 (.484, 189 games) all time vs. AP ranked opponents, not a bad percentage considering NU started with a 7-35 mark before Coach Bob Devaney arrived in 1962. Over the last 10 seasons, the Huskers have gone 29-14 against ranked foes, with just two of the losses at home. Nebraska has won 14 of its last 19 games against top 10 AP teams (since 1994).
The Huskers were 0-4 last season against AP ranked opponents, and ended a six-game overall losing skid against ranked foes with the victory over Oklahoma State. Nebraska's previous victory over a ranked opponent was a 20-10 defeat of No. 2 Oklahoma on Oct. 27, 2001.
Over the last 31 years, NU is 72-49-1 (.594, 122 games) vs. ranked teams. In the 1990s, NU was 27-10-1 (counting the Jan. 2, 2000, win over Tennessee). Solich is 11-12 vs. ranked teams (4-5 vs. top 10 AP teams), and has lost just twice at home to a ranked AP team (7-2 home, 1-8 away, 3-2 neutral).
Back in Black
Nebraska's top defensive players had to wait until just a few days before the season opener to learn who would be given Blackshirts-the coveted practice jerseys worn by first-team Husker defenders. First-year coordinator Bo Pelini's delay in awarding the Blackshirts didn't seem to faze his players as Nebraska opened the season with a defensive effort to remember. Here are a few notes regarding the peformance of NU's defense in the 17-7 victory over Oklahoma State...
Nebraska limited Oklahoma State to just 183 total yards of offense, including only 57 after halftime. The Cowboys gained just 70 yards of offense in the game's final 42 minutes.
The 183 yards of total offense were the fewest Nebraska had allowed in 24 games, since holding Notre Dame to 162 yards in a 27-10 victory in Lincoln on Sept. 8, 2001.
Nebraska had not allowed fewer yards in a season opener since Iowa picked up just 169 yards of total offense in the 1999 opener in Iowa City (NU, 42-7).
The Blackshirts forced five Oklahoma State turnovers, including three interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries. Nebraska had not forced five turnovers in a game since a 41-15 victory over Kansas State on Nov. 13, 1999, a span of 43 games. Last season, Nebraska did not force more than three turnovers in a game, and NU's three interceptions were its most since picking off three Utah State passes last season.
Josh Fields' 97 yards passing was his lowest passing total as a starter, while Rashaun Woods' 47 receiving yards were his fewest since the 2001 season.
All Areas of Defense Shine in Opener
Nebraska's defensive effort against Oklahoma State was truly a team effort. It is hard to highlight specific defenders, but the Husker coaching staff and OSU players and coaches did point out the work of a few defenders.
Junior linebacker Barrett Ruud finished with seven tackles, including one tackle for loss and returned a Cowboy fumble 15 yards for a touchdown. Nebraska Head Coach Frank Solich was not surprised by Ruud's performance-"I thought leading up to this game that Barrett Ruud had a great fall camp. He is a great football player, and I think that showed in a lot of ways today." The Lincoln native's effort earned him Nebraska's nomination for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week.
Senior linebacker Demorrio Williams posted nine tackles on the afternoon, including one tackle for loss. He also broke up a pass and hurried quarterback Josh Fields. Williams' speed and play-making ability disrupted the Cowboys' offense on numerous other occasions. Oklahoma State offensive guard Sam Mayes was impressed by Williams' effort- "Whoa, that's like having a safety at linebacker. He was in the backfield all the time. We had him blocked and he was quick enough to get around us and cause trouble." New defensive coordinator Bo Pelini also touted Williams' play- "He's a special player. He has special talents. That left guard might be seeing him (Williams) in his sleep for a while."
Sophomore cornerback Fabian Washington led Nebraska with 11 tackles and added a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. He was also a key factor in the NU defense that limited OSU All-America receiver Rashaun Woods to five catches for 47 yards, including two receptions for nine yards in the second half. Pelini was also pleased with the work of NU's left corner- "He was all over the place. He's a good football player, who really steps it up in live competition. It was no surprise to us the way he played. He's a gamer."
Sophomore free safety Josh Bullocks intercepted a pair of second-half passes, marking the first time a Husker had two interceptions in a game since Washington picked off two Iowa State passes last season. Bullocks added three tackles.
Senior free safety Jerrell Pippens had four tackles in the game, including a seven-yard sack of Josh Fields. On the play, Pippens caused a fumble that was recovered by Ryon Bingham and Nebraska converted the turnover to a touchdown and a 17-7 third-quarter lead.
Davis Handling Heavy Work Load for Huskers
Senior I-back Josh Davis figures to sleep well on Saturday nights this fall. The 5-11, 200-pound Davis is in his third season as Nebraska's starting kickoff return man, and already owns NU single-game, season and career records for kickoff return yardage. By season's end, Davis could own the top three season kickoff return yardage totals in school history and is on track to become the first 2,000-yard kickoff return man in Nebraska history.
His special teams role has grown this season, as he has taken over Nebraska's top punt return duties. Davis returned three punts in the opener for 30 yards. Davis has also risen to the top of the depth chart at I-back and turned in a workmanlike performance against Oklahoma State in the opener. Davis rushed 20 times for 95 yards against the Cowboys and his tough running style, allowed him to be thrown for only one yard in losses in the game. Davis' 20 carries and 95 yards were both career highs. He also caught a career-long 12-yard pass out of the backfield.
Overall, Davis accounted for 169 yards of all-purpose yards in the contest (95 rushing, 12 receiving, 32 kickoff return, 30 punt return).
Lord Looks For Big Things in 2003
Nebraska senior quarterback Jammal Lord made a large dent in the Husker record book a year ago. The Bayonne, N.J., native set NU game and season records for total offense and rushing yards by a quarterback. Lord finished the season with 1,412 rushing yards, the third-most ever by a Division I-A quarterback and amassed 2,774 yards of total offense. In the process, he also became one of only 19 Division I-A players to both rush and pass for more than 1,000 yards in the same season. He was the third Husker signal caller in six seasons to reach that plateau, joining Scott Frost (1997) and Eric Crouch (2001).
In addition, Lord was Nebraska's most consistent big-play threat a year ago. He had a hand in a remarkable 41 plays of 20 yards or more in 2002, including 21 runs and 20 passes.
Despite his gaudy numbers last season, the 6-2, 220-pound Lord is hopeful of becoming a more efficient quarterback this season, most notably through the air. Last season Lord completed just less than 47 percent of his passes and threw for 12 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.
Lord began the 2003 season with a solid effort in the 17-7 victory over Oklahoma State. Lord rushed 18 times for 90 yards, with a long run of 27 yards. Through the air, Lord connected on 50 percent of his passes (8-16) for 78 yards, with one of his attempts intercepted.
Recent Nebraska history indicates that Lord could be in for marked improvement this fall. Husker quarterbacks in their second seasons as starters have enjoyed much greater success in year two at the helm versus their first season as a starter. Most recently, 2001 Heisman winner Eric Crouch improved his completion percentage from 48.5 percent as a freshman to 51.9 percent as a sophomore. Crouch also improved his average yards per total offense attempt by nearly a yard. The following graphic examines several Nebraska quarterbacks' statistics in their first seasons as starters versus their second years.
Nebraska Strives for Offensive Efficiency
Lord's development as a passer will be a key in Nebraska's desire to become a more balanced offense this fall. Solich and new offensive coordinator Barney Cotton have regularly talked about increasing the Huskers' completion rate into the 55 to 60 percent area.
Game one against Oklahoma State did indicate that Nebraska will likely still rely on its ground game as its bread and butter. The Huskers ran the ball on 65 of their 81 offensive snaps and racked up 268 of their 346 yards of total offense on the ground. Despite the run-oriented attack in the season opener, this year's Husker offense has the potential to be the most balanced in a generation.
Last season Nebraska generated 72 percent of its offense on the ground, and in five seasons under Solich the Huskers have accounted for just more than 70 percent of their offense via the run. By comparison, Tom Osborne's last five Husker teams (1993-97) picked up 71.5 percent of their offense via the run.
Solich's most balanced offensive attack came in his first season in 1998, when NU gained 65.9 percent of its offense on the ground (34.1 percent passing). In fact, that season marks Nebraska's most pass-oriented offense in the past 26 years. Nebraska has not picked up more than 35 percent of its offensive yardage via the pass since the 1976 season. In that campaign, Vince Ferragamo led an NU passing attack that led the Big Eight Conference at 188.0 yards per game and accounted for 46.1 percent of Nebraska's offense. Each of Osborne's first four NU teams (1973-76) picked up at least 37 percent of their offense by passing.
Larson Returns to Key Husker Punting Team
Nebraska's special teams hope to be "special" once again in 2003. Along with kickoff and punt return man Josh Davis as a return man, senior punter Kyle Larson is in his third season as a starter for the Huskers. Larson has been one of the nation's top punters each of the past two seasons and his statistics rank near the top of Nebraska's career charts.
Larson averaged 43.2 yards per punt last season and keyed a Husker punting unit that ranked second in the Big 12 and fifth nationally in net punting. The Funk, Neb., native had 21 punts of 50 yards or longer last season and pinned the opposition inside its own 20 on 23 occasions. Larson was a second-team All-Big 12 selection by the league's coaches last season and was one of 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award. His 42.67 career punting average ranks second on the Husker career charts, behind only his predecessor Dan Hadenfeldt (1999-2000).
Larson opened his 2003 season with five punts for a 36.2-yard average against Oklahoma State and pinned the Cowboys inside of their 20 on two occasions.
Scouting Utah State
Utah State opened its 2003 campaign last Thursday with a 40-20 loss to in-state rival Utah in Salt Lake City. Utah jumped to a 14-3 halftime lead in the contest, then after the Aggies pulled within 21-12 late in the third quarter, Utah put the game away with 13 unanswered points to open the fourth quarter.
The Aggies featured a potent passing attack in 2002, and this season appears to be no different. Utah State picked up 357 yards of total offense against Utah, including 280 yards through the air. Junior quarterback Travis Cox is in his first season as the starter and opened the year by completing 19-of-41 passes against Utah, including a touchdown pass. Senior wide receiver Chris Stallworth was Cox's favorite target, hauling in five passes for 113 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown. Cox did an excellent job of spreading the ball around, completing passes to nine different receivers.
The Aggies averaged less than 85 yards per game on the ground last season and managed just 77 against Utah last week. Senior tailback David Fiefia paced the running attack with nine carries for 54 yards. Utah State will also be looking for significant improvement on defense this fall, after allowing nearly 475 yards per contest in 2002. Utah picked up 382 yards of total offense in the season opener, including 202 rushing yards and 180 yards through the air. Junior linebacker Robert Watts made 85 tackles last season and was busy again in the opener, making 16 stops, including a tackle for loss. Senior safety Derrek Shank also had a strong outing against the Utes, making 12 tackles and breaking up a pass.
Utah State Coach Mick Dennehy
Mick Dennehy (Montana, 1973) is in his fourth season as the head coach at Utah State and his 11th season overall as a collegiate head coach. Dennehy owns a 13-21 record with the Aggies and is 62-46 overall. In addition to his work as a head coach at Utah State, Dennehy has also served as the head man at Montana and Western Montana. Dennehy guided the Aggies to a 5-6 record in his first season and has posted a 4-7 mark each of the past two seasons. His 2002 Utah State team finished second in the Big West Conference.
Nebraska-Utah State Series...NU leads 7-0
Nebraska has won all seven meetings between the two schools, including a 44-13 victory last season at Memorial Stadium. The Huskers have dominated each of the series' meetings, winning all seven games by at least three touchdowns. The average score of the previous seven meetings has been 46.7-13.3 and Utah State has scored more than 14 points in just one of the seven games.
Last season, Nebraska scored on five of its first six drives to open a 31-7 second-quarter lead, and cruised to a 44-13 victory over the Aggies in front of the 250th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium. Quarterback Jammal Lord set the pace for the Huskers, rushing for two touchdowns and passing for two more before halftime. Cornerback DeJuan Groce intercepted two passes and earned Big 12 Defensive Player-of-the-Week honors for his efforts. Senior I-back Dahrran Diedrick rushed for a team-high 93 yards on 16 carries, while Kyle Larson paced the NU special teams with a 57.3-yard punting average, just off the NU school record. The Husker defense harrassed Utah State quarterback Jose Fuentes all evening, sacking the Aggie signal caller six times and forcing him into three interceptions.
Nebraska Head Coach Frank Solich
Coach Frank Solich (Nebraska, 1966) is in his sixth season at the helm of the Husker program with a 50-16 school and career record (.758). Solich ranks sixth among active coaches with at least five years of service in winning percentage.
With a victory over Oklahoma State in the season opener, Solich collected his 50th win in just his 66th game as Nebraska's head coach, the same amount as his Hall of Fame predecessor Tom Osborne (50-14-2). Solich's 49 wins in his first five seasons as a head coach tied him for third place on the all-time Division I-A list for most wins in the first five years of a head coaching career.
Solich has piled up a number of notable accomplishments during his Nebraska tenure including...
Becoming just the third first-year Nebraska head coach to record nine wins in his first season at the helm, joining a pair of Hall of Fame Coaches-Tom Osborne (9-2-1 in 1973) and Bob Devaney (9-2 in 1962).
He posted the best record of any Husker second-year coach, as his team posted a 12-1 record in 1999, leading NU to a Big 12 championship and No. 2 (coaches poll) and No. 3 (AP poll) final national rankings.
The Nebraska graduate has set NU records for most wins after two, three, four and five years as head coach, bettering Devaney and Osborne.
Solich was named the 1999 Big 12 Coach of the Year by his league peers and the AP after winning the league championship, and was named coach of the year by the conference coaches a second time in 2001.
Solich is the only Husker coach to have won 12 games in either of his first two seasons. In fact, neither Devaney nor Osborne had an 11-win campaign in their first four years, with Devaney posting a pair of 10-win seasons and Osborne hitting 10 wins in his third season.
Solich tied Devaney by winning his first conference title his second year, while Osborne tied for his first title in his third year at the helm.
Solich has continued Nebraska's winning tradition the Husker way-by identification of athletic talent regardless of position or recruiting rank; with successful recruitment nationwide of the country's best student-athletes; developing local talent and utilizing the envious Husker walk-on program; and by providing the best athletic facilities and support available for the student-athletes.
Solich also recognizes the Husker tradition, which is most evident in his coaching staff. Including Solich, six of Nebraska's 10 full-time coaches played college ball at Nebraska. Solich is one of 19 current Division I-A football coaches who played for and now coach their alma mater.
Solich was named Nebraska's 26th head coach on Dec. 10, 1997, after serving as an NU assistant for 19 years. He played fullback for Hall of Fame Coach Bob Devaney, lettering in 1963-64-65. Solich was the first Husker running back to rush for 200 yards in a game and remains the only fullback to accomplish that feat. He also lettered for the NU baseball team in 1965. After serving as a local high school football coach for 14 years, Solich took over the NU freshman program and posted a 19-1 record from 1979 to 1982. He was elevated to NU's running backs coach after four seasons, a position he held for 15 years (1983-97). He was promoted to assistant head coach in 1991 and head coach following the 1997 season. Solich earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from NU in 1966 and 1972, respectively.
Fresh Faces on Husker Sidelines for 2003 Season
Solich is surrounded by several new faces on his coaching staff for the 2003 season. Six new coaches are on the NU staff, including three assistants on each side of the ball, led by new offensive and defensive coordinators.
The new Husker assistants (previous coaching stop) include...
Barney Cotton, Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line (Offensive coordinator, New Mexico State)
Bo Pelini, Defensive Coordinator, (Linebackers, Green Bay Packers)
Tim Albin, Running Backs/Passing Game Coordinator, (Graduate Assistant, Nebraska)
Scott Downing, Tight Ends/Kickers & Punters/Recruiting Coordinator (Ass't. Head Coach, RBs, Purdue)
Marvin Sanders, Defensive Backs, (Secondary, Colorado State)
Jimmy Williams, Linebackers (Defensive Line, Toledo)
All of the new assistants had previous Nebraska ties except for Pelini, who came to Nebraska from the NFL coaching ranks and played college football at Ohio State. The newcomers join assistants Ron Brown (17th year), Turner Gill (12th year) and Jeff Jamrog (4th year). Brown continues to coach Nebraska's wide receivers. Gill remains the Huskers' quarterbacks coach and added the title of assistant head coach. Jamrog will again coach the Husker defensive tackles, but will also tutor the defensive ends and serve as Nebraska's special teams coordinator.
Four Husker Seniors Elected as 2003 Captains
Four Nebraska seniors have been elected as captains for the 2003 season. The captains were determined by a vote of the team, with two captains selected on both offense and defense. On offense, quarterback Jammal Lord and fullback Judd Davies received the nod. Lord is in his second season as NU's starting signal caller, while Davies enters his third season as the Huskers' starter at fullback.
Defensively, end Trevor Johnson and linebacker Demorrio Williams were selected as captains. Johnson is a fifth-year senior from Lincoln, while Williams joined the Husker program after two seasons at Kilgore (Texas) Junior College. Williams is the first junior college transfer to be elected team captain at Nebraska since at least 1957. In addition to the four captains for the season, Nebraska coaches will select a special teams captain each week. Senior free safety Jerrell Pippens was Nebraska's special teams captain for the season opener. Pippens plays on four of NU's special teams units.
Personnel, Injury Update
Nebraska remains in relatively good physical condition early in the season. Junior linebacker Lannie Hopkins missed much of fall camp while recovering from off-season surgery, but played on special teams in the opener. Sixth-year senior defensive lineman Jason Lohr has also been out with injury and did not play against Oklahoma State. Cornerback Willie Amos went through fall camp in good health after being limited during spring ball, as he continued to recover from a knee injury suffered in April of 2002. Senior fullback DeAntae Grixby missed the season opener after suffering an ankle injury during fall camp.
Three newcomers to the NU program saw action in the season opener, including wide receiver Andy Birkel, defensive tackle Brandon Teamer, and long snapper Lane Kelly. Several other newcomers suited up for the opener, but did not see action. Nebraska added three players from the junior college ranks-cornerback Donald DeFrand, rush end Wali Muhammad and offensive lineman Darren DeLone. Solich said all three could play roles this fall. Other true freshmen who suited up for the opener, but did not play include quarterback Joe Dailey, I-back Tierre Green, place-kicker David Dyches, tight end J.B. Phillips and linebacker Bo Ruud. Last season, five true freshmen bypassed redshirt seasons and contributed immediately.
Nebraska Tops Elite Programs in Consistency
Nebraska ranks third among Division I-A schools in all-time football victories with 772 wins. The Huskers have the nation's best record since 1962, posting a 406-85-5 record in the last 42 seasons. In that period, Nebraska has easily been the most consistent program in the nation. That is evident when comparing the Huskers' record to the other nine programs among the top 10 in all-time victories.
The Huskers have had just three seasons (including 2002) since 1962 with eight or fewer victories. Eight of the other nine schools in the top 10 have had at least 15 seasons with eight or fewer wins in that span. Nebraska's last losing season occurred in 1961. Michigan has not had a losing record since 1967, but the other eight schools on the all-time top 10 wins list have all had losing seasons since 1988, including six programs with losing campaigns in the past six seasons.
Nebraska is back in the national rankings after its victory over Oklahoma State and hopes to contend for Big 12 and national honors in 2003. The Huskers need look no further than the top 10 winningest programs for direction. Although each has experienced a downturn of some degree, the group had a strong season in 2002. Eight of the 10 teams won at least nine games and ranked in the top 16 in the final Associated Press poll.
Nine Players Enter 2003 Season With Degree in Hand
Nine members of the Huskers' senior class have already completed their undergraduate educations heading into the 2003 season. This season represents the most graduates Nebraska has had entering a season under Head Coach Frank Solich. Included in that group is senior nose tackle Patrick Kabongo, who played his junior season with his degree after graduating in three years in August of 2002. In addition to the nine players who already have their degrees, 12 more players are on track to earn their degrees after the fall semester. Last season, five Huskers played the entire season with their degree and a total of 16 Nebraska players had earned their degrees before the Huskers' appearance in the Independence Bowl.
Former Huskers a Fixture on NFL Rosters
Nebraska is consistently among the nation's leaders in supplying talent to the National Football League and this season is no different. The Huskers had a total of 42 former players on NFL rosters at the start of this fall's training camp. In all, 21 teams had at least one former Husker on their preseason rosters, while the Kansas City Chiefs boast an NFL-high five former Huskers (Clint Finley, Will Shields, Wilson Thomas, Jared Tomich and Eric Warfield). Green Bay, Houston, Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis also have strong Husker presences, as three players began preseason camp with each of those teams.
Eight members of last season's squad opened the preseason on NFL rosters, including 2003 draftees Chris Kelsay (2nd round, Buffalo), DeJuan Groce (4th, St. Louis), Josh Brown (7th, Seattle) and Scott Shanle (7th, St. Louis). In addition, four other 2002 seniors: Jon Clanton (Tennessee), Dahrran Diedrick (San Diego), John Garrison (Tennessee) and Wilson Thomas (Kansas City) joined squads as free agents after signing with teams following the draft. Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro offensive guard Will Shields and Oakland Raiders defensive tackle John Parrella are Nebraska's most experienced NFL veterans, each entering their 11th season in the league. A full list of Nebraska's NFL players is in the left column.